Finally, LEGO has listened to disability activists and people everywhere who have been calling for them to include representations of people with disabilities in its toys.
This week LEGO confirmed it’s released a new set featuring a young man using a wheelchair. The new toy was spotted at the Nurumberg Toy Fair in Germany this week and also at the London Toy Fair. It’s part of a new “Fun in the Park” set, according to ToyLikeMe, a campaign working to pressure toy companies into being more inclusive. The set also appears to include a guide dog.
“It’s pretty momentous, even though it’s just a little toy,” Rebecca Atkinson, co-founder of ToyLikeMe, told The Mighty in an email. “It’s about the message behind it, which is far, far bigger than a little one-inch-tall plastic guy.”
Pictures of the plastic beanie-wearing youth in a wheelchair were posted on the Promobricks, a LEGO news blog, Facebook page and shared on a website called Bricksfans. The release of this new figure comes after many months of campaigning by ToyLikeMe, which launched a Change.org petition last year that got more than 20,000 signatures. Last Christmas, ToyLikeMe submitted designs for a disability-inclusive holiday set and campaigned for that as well.
Representatives from LEGO confirmed the existence of the wheelchair-using figure in the LEGO CITY set to the UK Press Association on Wednesday, the Daily Mail reported. The set containing the figure will go on sale in June.
“For Lego to include a wheelchair-using mini-figure in one of their sets is a huge deal,” Atkinson told The Mighty. “I’m not sure they even realize themselves what they have done. It’s massively significant. For a brand as large and loved as LEGO, this kind of incidental inclusion speaks volumes. It says to children with disabilities that the brand is behind them, that they are part of the cultural mainstream.”
This is the first LEGO mini figure with a wheelchair, although previously there was a LEGO Duplo range, a series of the toys aimed at pre-school children, that featured an elderly man in a wheelchair. That set was criticized by activists for reinforcing stereotypes about wheelchairs only being for the elderly. This new figure is a part of the LEGO line aimed at older kids.
“I’m delighted,” Atkinson told The Mighty. “I’ve worked hard to set this issue on the agenda within the toy industry and say that the cultural marginalization of 150 million disabled kids by the toy industry is not OK. I’m hopeful this is the beginning of real core brand commitment from LEGO to continue positively representing disabled children in their much loved toys.”
The Mighty reached out to LEGO for comment but have yet to hear back. For more on ToyLikeMe, or to help support them in their efforts, visit their CrowdFunder page here.